It is a serious story familiar to brewers and operators the length and breadth of the country – lager sales are in steep decline. Yet, there is justified hope from the big brewers who are investing considerably in the category that consumers’ passion for a brew that still dominates sales UK-wide can be reignited.
Several factors currently contribute to the decline in on-trade lager sales, including fewer visits to the pub, a proliferation of new brands on the market – such as craft beers – and the rise of the spirit drinker, particularly those turning to gin.
That is not to say operators and brewers should stop focusing on their lagers, far from it. There is a genuine thirst among Brits for good-quality lager that consistently delivers on taste, but they almost need reminding they can get this from familiar brands on the bar.
One recent success story comes from Carlsberg’s beautiful rebrand of Expørt in 2017, which drew on its Danish heritage and was propelled with a serious £1.5m advertising campaign. The result was a healthy 25% upturn in Carlsberg Expørt free-trade lager sales for the last quarter of 2017.
Brains behind the campaign
Carlsberg UK vice-president of marketing, and one of the brains behind the campaign, Liam Newton tells The Morning Advertiser: “We’re delighted with how the relaunch has been received from a customer point of view and one of the gratifying things is it has now been employed in a number of other European markets.”
The ad series was so transformative that it has now been commissioned for a rollout again and in other markets too. “We’re seeing double-digit growth of Expørt in the independent free-trade and are gaining more distribution,” Newton adds.
Next, coinciding with Carlsberg’s Rebrew project – which saw the brewer hark back to its roots by using a surviving 133-year-old yeast found in a historic bottle of Carlsberg to create a new beer – the brewer is set to launch something extra special in the UK: dark lager Carlsberg 1883.
Traditional to Scandinavia and not seen much in the UK these days, Carlsberg 1883 will be made available for three to four months this spring. Newton says it is a less challenging beer that will “hopefully” sway the more conventional lager drinker into trying something new.
“Not many brands within the mainstream lager sector can do something like this because they don’t have the heritage that we do,” adds Newton. “It is all about trying to reinforce the brewing credentials of Carlsberg that people might not be aware of.
‘We’re speciality too’
“It’s trying to say ‘we are speciality too’ to all of those in the market who don’t realise our Danish origins and history.
“We have an incredible brewing story and we’re going to be getting that out there with 1883, which will hopefully help consumers appreciate that bigger brands are special too.”
At this point, it is difficult not to bring up craft beer, since the segment has changed the face of the category in such a short space of time. Newton agrees the growth of smaller and interesting beers has allowed brewers such as Carlsberg to produce the likes of Rebrew and 1883.
“Craft is definitely something we’re excited about,” he explains. “But what we want to do is demonstrate that some of the bigger brands have a great past and we’re doing that with our new take on an old recipe.”
Carlsberg 1883 is a 4.6% ABV dark lager that has a fresh malty aroma with a sweet caramel taste, followed by a well-balanced aftertaste. The beer will be brewed in Fredericia, Denmark, and will be available in the UK soon.